golden retriever dog is lying on the ground and sticking his tongue out
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These 8 Dog Breeds Are Known For Being Super Gentle & Sweet

Any one would make a great addition to your family.

Originally Published: 

If you're ready to add a chill, laid-back rescue pup to your family, then there are probably a million questions on your mind. For one, what are generally the gentlest breeds of rescue dogs? Pedigree is only one thing to consider when adopting your new canine buddy.

About Gentle Dog Breeds

“One thing to keep in mind is that there is no guarantee that a certain breed will be completely gentle,” Blake Pilgreen, Owner & Head Trainer at The Prodigal Pooch Dog Training, tells Romper. “With that being said, some breeds that tend to be more gentle are labrador retrievers, golden retrievers, poodles or poodle mixes. Pugs and French Bulldogs are also typically very sweet.” But even if you’re set on a certain breed of dog, remember that they’re all individuals. “Dog breeds have so many different variables. It can be tough trying to isolate one specific breed for temperament,”Thomas Davis, Founder of America’s Canine Academy, tells Romper. “Golden Retrievers can be awesome family dogs, but you can also get a not so gentle, pushy golden retriever.”

Learning More About Rescue Dogs

For the most part, it's wise to keep an open mind when considering rescue dogs. "While it’s possible to find purebred or 'designer breed' dogs at an animal shelter, it’s important to remember that even within a specific breed, all dogs are individuals with their own unique personalities and dispositions, regardless of their breed, and there is wide variation both between breeds and within a breed," Pamela Reid, Ph.D., vice president of the ASPCA Behavioral Sciences Team, tells Romper. The dog's apparent breed is only one part of the package. "All rescue dogs are individuals and their behavior or 'personality' will be a cumulative result of all their experiences including: socialization as a puppy, experiences with their previous family or families, behavioral response to re-homing, and underlying behavioral or medical issues they may be suffering from," Katie Kuehl, DVM, a clinical instructor in shelter medicine at the Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine, tells Romper.

Mixed-Breed Dogs

“It’s really hard to identify a dog breed based on looks alone with shelter dogs, unless the dog is truly purebred,” as Kayla Fratt, Certified Dog Behavior Consultant at Journey Dog Training, tells Romper. Opening your search to mixed-breed dogs will certainly give you more options. If you're open to a dog from any sort of background, as long as they're gentle, then definitely rely on the shelter's staff for guidance. "Open your mind and your heart by giving the adoption counselors at your local shelter a chance to use their knowledge about their resident animals to set you up with a great match regardless of breed," says Reid. It's easy to be drawn in by the adorable puppies, but don't rule out the older pooches as well. In general, older or senior dogs will have more established personalities and energy levels when compared to puppies, as Reid explains. Lastly, size can be a big factor as well. "In terms of size, larger dogs tend to be calmer than smaller ones," says Reid. A mellow, gentle giant of a dog who's a few years old just might be the perfect fit for your family.

How To Choose A Rescue Dog For Your Family

What traits should you look for in individual rescue dogs? “I’d recommend looking at the dog’s specific history, the shelter staff’s assessment, and what you observe with the dog itself rather than pinning your hopes on guesses of a breed mix,” says Fratt. “Again, it’s just SO hard to determine breed by looks unless the dog is a purebred.”

In addition, remember that it can take a little time to get to know your new pooch's personality. "Spending time with an animal outside of a kennel environment is critical; having the chance to take them for a walk or play fetch in a yard will help you get to know them better," says Kuehl. Initially, a dog may seem high-strung just because they're excited to get out of the kennel for a minute. It can take a bit of time for their real personality to come through. Again, it's a great idea to rely on info from the shelter staff or the dog's foster family to get a better picture.

And with that mention, definitely consider dogs who live with a foster family while awaiting adoption, too. “Sometimes this helps the foster family learn more about the dog that can be shared with a prospective family. This may include interactions with children or different types of animals,” as Erin Askeland, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA, Animal Health & Behavior Consultant at Camp Bow Wow, tells Romper.

With all of this in mind, it's totally cool if you're still enamored with a particular breed of dog known for being a sweetheart. "If you’ve got your heart set on a particular breed of dog and haven’t been able to find one for adoption at a local animal shelter or rescue group, contact a breed-specific rescue," says Reid. "By adopting, not only will you be saving a life, but you will ensure that your money supports those who put the health ... of dogs first, while also freeing up space for other animals in need." Here are some breeds that may be worth your consideration. By working with your shelter staff and keeping an open mind, you can find the cool, easy-going pooch who will fit right into your home.



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With their big, soulful eyes, these dogs are beyond adorable. Plus, beagles are "loving and lovable, happy, and companionable — all qualities that make them excellent family dogs," according to the American Kennel Club (AKC). These hounds would probably love to join your pack. Look for an organization near you like the SOS (Save Our Snoopies) Beagle Rescue to find your new buddy.


Golden Retriever

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If you've dreamed about owning a golden retriever ever since watching Homeward Bound or Air Bud as a kid, well, these dogs can make excellent companions. Make sure you're ready to take on the task of adding a large, strong dog to your family, though. "They need lots of exercise and socialization with other dogs and humans; however, most of all, they need a commitment of time to help them find a secure place in the family 'pack,'" according to the Delaware Valley Golden Retriever Rescue. If you have the time and space for one, golden retrievers are amazing additions to your family.



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Known as a whip-smart, athletic dog, poodles are great dogs that tend to respond well to training, as the AKC's breed standard explains. "Poodles are gregarious by nature and therefore able to bond with multiple people. Most rescued poodles adjust beautifully to new living arrangements," according to the Poodle Club of America Rescue Foundation, Inc. From the stately standard poodle to the tiny toy size, there's a poodle for just about every family.


Great Dane

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Don't let their (extremely) large size intimidate you. "Great Danes can be remarkably gentle," according to the Rocky Mountain Great Dane Rescue. "Many Danes share their homes with small dogs and cats. Great Danes have a well-deserved reputation for being wonderful with children and sometimes work as therapy dogs." They tend to be sweet and even sensitive dogs.


Shih Tzu

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If smaller dogs are more your speed, then consider the companionable Shih Tzu. A total lap dog, the "Shih Tzu is known to be especially affectionate with children," according to the AKC. As long as you're up for the grooming responsibilities of this long-haired dog, the Shih Tzu can make an amazing addition to your family.

Whether you're looking for a gentle giant, a tiny sidekick, or something in-between, there's a rescue breed that will fit in with your home environment. As long as you're careful to get to know the dog as an individual, too, then finding your ideal gentle rescue dog is totally doable.


Labrador Retriever

One of the most popular breeds of dogs in the United States, Labrador Retrievers can make excellent family dogs, but they tend to be rather active, according to Lab Rescue LRCP. If you’re seeking a high-energy dog, then consider looking for a lab rescue in your area.



Among the oldest breeds of dogs, pugs are known for being affectionate and generally good with children, according to the AKC. Their distinct flat-faced appearance means pugs may experience breathing problems, however, so be aware of this particular health concern.


French Bulldog

A small but sturdy dog, French bulldogs can be affectionate additions to your family, according to the AKC. (Just know that they aren’t great at swimming and should not be left unattended near water.) These playful dogs generally don’t bark that much, either.

Whether you're looking for a gentle giant, a tiny sidekick, or something in-between, there's a rescue breed that will fit in with your home environment. As long as you're careful to get to know the dog as an individual, too, then finding your ideal gentle rescue dog is totally doable.


Katie Kuehl, DVM, Clinical Instructor in Shelter Medicine at the Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine

Pamela Reid, PhD, CAAB, Vice President of the ASPCA Behavioral Sciences Team

Kayla Fratt, Certified Dog Behavior Consultant at Journey Dog Training

Blake Pilgreen, Owner & Head Trainer, The Prodigal Pooch Dog Training

Thomas Davis, Dog Trainer & Founder of Upstate Canine Academy

Erin Askeland, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA, Animal Health & Behavior Consultant at Camp Bow Wow